Tuesday, February 13, 2018

One of the best things my parents gave me was a Work Ethic

Every day from when I started school as a first grader (that is a story in itself, my dad had me skip kindergarten) to when I finished high school, I remember my father always glancing over my shoulder to see what I was working on - but not saying one word. 

In my home this was typical of his approval of how I conducted myself, and how he wanted me to be perceived in public. He neither criticized me for my grades (albeit there were never any "horrible" grades that I brought home) nor did he offer to help me with my studies. The dreams that my parents had, specifically of me, were synonymous of the dreams shared with many individuals who were in the same class and situation as they were: be a nurse, marry a physician and your life is done. Interestingly enough, that's not what happened.

My preparation for being what they wanted was ill fitting. I never spent more than two minutes taking care of dolls when they were "sick" and honestly, I was more interested in math and business than public health. Instead, my days were spent gazing over at the television and listening in on shows that improved my vocabulary and inadvertently, changed the way  I spoke when I was with people outside of the home. My classmates commented on my "less than age appropriate" style of speaking as they felt intimidated by my speech patterns and keen sense of pitch and delivery. 

I preferred observing individuals to gain insight on what made them successful and respected rather than followed a pattern of "rules" when your livelihood requires that you take someone else's lead. It was difficult to see what my parents were doing - on one hand, they groomed me to be obedient (to a fault) and a good role model in our family. On the other hand, it backfired on them as I became more astute and reserved as I preferred the comfort of a biography over the company of individuals my age.

It became apparent that developing a modest sense of self and an unwavering sense of responsibility to those whom I wished to serve was the path my father took in raising me. As I came home from the first job that I ever had, my father looked at me as I tried to gain sympathy from him because I had complained about how I worked on my feet for 7 and 1/2 hours straight. In an unwavering voice meant to prepare me for adulthood he said, "if this day is too hard for you, what do you think longer days will look like? This is nothing."

At that moment I realized one of few life lessons my late father would teach me during his short lifetime. He never worried about how hard I needed to work. Both him and my mother knew that I always strived to stand out with the work that I did and felt a sense of obligation and loyalty to those who believed in me. What impressed me is that they always knew how important it was for me to be prepared to work. They could never understand how much I loved doing "unpaid" work to learn a skill or do research, something that in my eyes is a bribe to learn what you already need to know. In a sense, the work ethic that my parents gave me was the best, and one of the only things that I am proud to have today. Without it - life would be filled with obstacles instead of momentous occasions to conquer the world!